A letter that George Romney received in 1964 (when Romney was governor of Michigan)
from a Mormon apostle named Delbert L. Stapley. The letter encouraged Romney to
reconsider his pro-civil rights position. In the months after receiving this letter,
George Romney stepped up his support for civil rights.
The Church op Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Council ok Tub Twelve
It was a real pleasure to greet and have a moment to visit
with you and Lenore here this past week. It is wonderful to see
how enthusiastically you are received by the good people of Utah.
After listening to your talk on Civil Rights, I am very much
concerned. Several others have expressed the same concern to me.
It does not altogether harmonize with my own understandings
regarding this subject; therefore, I thought to drop you a note —
not in my official Church position, but as a personal friend.
Only President McKay can speak for the Church.
I felt, George, your views were most liberal on this vital
problem in the light of the revelations, but nevertheless, I
cannot deny you the right of your position if it represents your
true belief and feelings,
I would like to suggest you read two items on this subject,
both by the Prophet Joseph Smith, Turn to page 269 of Teachings
Of The Prophet Joseph Smith by Joseph Fielding Smith, and read
beginning the middle of the page under the caption, "The Status
of the Negro," giving particular attention to the closing sentence
on page 270. Also, read from History of the Church , Period 1,
Volume 2, beginning on page 436, under the heading, "The Prophet 1 s
Views on Abolition," which article continues to the bottom of
page 440. After reading this last-mentioned statement by the
Prophet, then come back to the last paragraph on page 438, and
give it some real thought.
When I reflect upon the Prophet's statements and remember
what happened to three of our nation 1 s presidents who were very
active in the Negro cause, I am sobered by their demise. They
went contrary to the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith-
unwittingly, no doubt, but nevertheless, the prophecy of Joseph
Smith, 11 . , . those who are determined to pursue a course, which
shows an opposition, and a feverish restlessness against the
Governor George W. Romney
January 23, 1964
decrees of the Lord, will leam, when perhaps it is too late for
their own good, that God can do His own work, without the aid of
those who are not dictated by His counsel," has and will continue
to be fulfilled.
In this respect, let me give you a personal experience. A
friend of mine in Arizona— not a Church member—a great champion
of the colored race—came to me after my call into the Twelve,
and acknowledged President McKay to be a Prophet of God. He wanted
me to ask President McKay to inquire of the Lord to see if the
Lord would not lift the curse from the colored race and give them
the privileges of the Priesthood. I explained to him that the
Lord had placed the curse upon the Negro, which denied him the
Priesthood; therefore, it was the Lord's responsibility- -not man's—
to change His decision. This friend of mine met a very tragic end
by drowning. He was a most enthusiastic advocate of the colored
cause and went about promoting for them all the privileges, social
opportunities, and participation enjoyed by the Whites.
I am sure you know that the Prophet Joseph Smith, in
connection with the Negro problem of this country, proposed to
Congress that they sell public lands and buy up the Negro slaves
and transport them back to Africa from whence they came. I am
sure the Prophet, with his vision and understanding, foresaw the
problems we are faced with today with this race, which caused him
to promote this program.
The statements of the Prophet Joseph Smith have been a help-
ful influence on me because they accord with my own understandings
regarding the Negro. I cannot, in my own feelings, accept the
idea of public accommodations; the taking from the whites their
wishes to satisfy the Negros. I do not have any objection to
recognizing the Negro in his place and giving him every opportunity
for education, for employment, for whatever contribution he can
make to the society of men and the protection and blessings of
Government. Yet, all these things, in my judgment, should accord
with the expressions of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
It is not right to force any class or race of people upon
those of a different social order or race classification. People
are happier when placed in the environment and association of
like interests, racial instincts, habits, and natural groupings.
Governor George W. Romney
January 23, 1964 ^
I am enclosing a little booklet entitled Mormonism and the
Negro, which you may already have. If not, it is an enlightening
exposition and quite well reflects the Church position in regard
to these people,
I am not against a Civil Rights Bill if it conforms to the
views of the Prophet Joseph Smith according to the references
above given. I fully agree the Negro is entitled to considerations
also stated above, but not full social benefits nor inter-marriage
privileges with the Whites, nor should the Whites be forced to
accept them into restricted White areas. In my judgment, the
present proposed Bill of Rights is vicious legislation. There
needs to be some modification. The position of the Church cannot
change until the Lord changes it Himself. Certainly I am not for
exploiting racial or religious prejudices, but it is the present
play-up to the Negro voters which is unnecessarily creating
problems that by a more firm, sensible approach can be avoided.
There will be a few die-hard leaders, but then that has always
been true with any debatable issue. Principle — religious or
otherwise — cannot be abrogated for political expediency.
Now, don f t think I am against the Negro people, because I
have several in my employ. We must understand and recognize their
status and then, accordingly, provide for them. I just don't
think we can get around the Lord's position in relation to the
Negro without punishment for our acts; going contrary to that
which He has revealed. The Lord will not permit His purposes to
be frustrated by man.
Please understand I have a great respect and admiration for
you, but because of my feelings I thought I should express myself
as I have so you will know my personal position.
This letter is for your personal use only (also Lenore) , and
is not to be used in any other way. It does not require an
With best wishes and success to you and Lenore always, I am
Faithfully your friend
/ and brother,